The Tory leadership hopeful was giving his introductory speech at today’s hustings in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Jeremy Hunt said: “I will never ignore the biggest threat facing British politics, which is the Labour party led by the most dangerous, ruthless, anti-Western, anti-British, hard-left cabal that we have ever seen in British politics.” The Foreign Secretary also vowed to increase defence spending to beyond two percent of GDP to show “Britain is here, Britain is back and our voice is going to be strong in the world”.
READ MORE: How Boris Johnson will reunite a nation DIVIDED over Brexit as PM
I will never ignore the biggest threat facing British politics, which is the Labour party led by the most dangerous, ruthless, anti-Western, anti-British, hard-left cabal that we have ever seen in British politics
He said: “I passionately believe Britain is one of the few countries that stands up for democratic values and the security needed to underpin them.
“I will increase our defence spending to beyond two percent of GDP to send that signal to the world to at the point of Brexit, Britain is here, Britain is back and our voice is going to be strong in the world.”
Boris Johnson and Mr Hunt are entering a crucial three weeks, with the new Prime Minister replacing Theresa May to be announced on July 23.
They are facing the latest round of hustings in Belfast today as they continue their respective drives to win over party members.
Tory leader LIVE: Jeremy Hunt launched a scathing attack against Jeremy Corbyn
Both are likely to be grilled on their plans to resolve the Irish border issue and remove the controversial backstop.
Mr Hunt believes there is technology there now to provide a solution, while Mr Johnson has suggested the backstop issue could be solved during the implementation period.
Mr Johnson has promised to take the UK out of the European Union by October 31 with or within a deal, while Mr Hunt has conceded he would attempt to delay Brexit to strike a deal.
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Tory leadership LIVE: Boris Johnson’s plans for Brexit
1.28pm update: Hammond dismisses spending pledges from Johnson and Hunt
Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned a disruptive no deal Brexit would blow a £90billion hole in the excheque and suggested there will be “no money available” for Theresa May’s successor.
He repeated all of the £26billion – £27billion “fiscal headroom” that has been built up would be needed to respond to the immediate impacts of a no deal Brexit.
Mr Hammond said: “We’ve built up around £26/27 billion of fiscal headroom and the purpose of having that headroom is precisely in order to protect the UK economy from the immediate effects of a possible no-deal exit.
“But I have no doubt whatsoever that in a no-deal exit we will need all of that money and more to respond to the immediate impacts of the disruption of a no-deal exit, and that will mean there is no money available for longer-term either tax cuts or spending increases.
“But let me go further, the Government’s analysis suggests that in a disruptive no-deal exit there will be a hit to the exchequer of about £90 billion.
“That will also have to be factored in to future spending and tax decisions.”
1.22pm update: Hammond against Government pursuing no deal Brexit policy
Chancellor Philip Hammond has told MPs in the House of Commons it would be “wrong for a British Government to seek to pursue no deal as a policy”.
He said: “I think I have been consistently clear that I believe leaving with a no-deal exit will be bad for the UK, bad for the British economy, bad for the British people.
“We cannot however rule out that that could happen because it is not entirely in our hands, but I do agree with him that it would be wrong for a British Government to seek to pursue no deal as a policy and I believe that it will be for the House of Commons of which I will continue proudly to be a member to ensure that that doesn’t happen.”
Tory leader LIVE: Philip Hammond had bad news for Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt
1.10pm update: Johnson lashes out at Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May
The former foreign Secretary was asked what he would do about the Irish backstop breaching a fundamental tenet of the Good Friday Agreement by not having the support of most unionists.
He said: “The backstop presents a prime minister of the UK with an absolutely unacceptable choice between abandoning our ability to govern ourselves, in the sense that the UK would have to submit to EU law on tariffs and EU law on regulations with no say on those laws, or alternative to give up control of the government of Northern Ireland and that is clearly unacceptable.
“And that’s a choice that I totally reject.
“The union comes first but I believe we should not be faced with that choice and the solution must be for the whole of the UK to come out in its entirety from the EU and to find the solutions that are needed for frictionless trade across the border in the context of the free trade deal.
“I think the Withdrawal Agreement, as it currently stands, is a dead letter.
“What the backstop really represents is the incoherence at the heart of the strategy we have been pursuing over the last few years.
“We’ve been wanting to come out of the EU supposedly whilst actually being prepared to stay in the customs union and full regulatory enlightenment, which is tantamount to coming out of the EU but being run by the EU.”
1.07pm update: Johnson vows to “energise” talks to restore devolved Government at Stormont
He said: I think they need to get back round the table as fast as possible. They need to be sorting this thing out. I would urge all sides to get on with it, restore Stormont.
“I would do whatever I can personally to energise and direct the talks and try and bring people together.
“It is the citizens and voters of Northern Ireland who are losing out as a result of this failure to get together.”
Tory leader LIVE: Boris Johnson joined Jeremy Hunt in attacking Jeremy Corbyn
1pm update: Corbyn also attacked by Johnson – ‘We can’t let him anywhere near Number 10’
Mr Johnson said: “When the Scripal poisonings took place in Salisbury, he seemed to be wanting to give Moscow the benefits of the doubt.
“This is a guy who would favour a united Ireland and would break up our union. He should be kept away from Number 10.
“He would be a political moral catastrophe, and an economic catastrophe for our country.
“He would break up our precious union, and we can’t let him anywhere Number 10.”
12.52pm update: Johnson confident of winning back voters to defeat Corbyn
The Tory leadership frontrunner said: “There are two parties that are prospering mightily from our failure to get Brexit over the line – the Brexit Party and the Lib Democrats.
“Once we have done that, lots of voters that have gone with them will come back to our party.
“That will put us in a much better position to enable us to do what we want to do, and that is to get ready to defeat Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.”
12.48pm update: Tories need to get ‘mojo’ back to ‘take fight to enemy’ – Johnson
Boris Johnson said: “We need to get our mojo back as Conservatives, believe in our cause and stand up for the moral force of our political ideas.
“If we get our mojo back and believe in ourselves again as the Conservative Party, then we will be able to take the fight to the enemy.”
Toy leader LIVE: Jeremy Hunt urged the DUP to “do their bit” with the Brexit deal
12.44pm update: Boris insists he can deliver Brexit by October 31 so UK comes out ‘undivided’
Boris Johnson is now up at the Conservative Party hustings in Belfast.
He is quick to comment on the issue of the Irish border, and reiterated his vow to deliver Brexit by October 31.
The former Foreign Secretary said: “We have to get Brexit done and over the line by October 31 and come out of the EU.
“Under no circumstances will we have a hard border – there will be no physical checks or infrastructure eat the border in Northern Ireland
“We will make sure we have a brexit that allows the whole UK to come out undivided, and keep our union absolutely in tact.
“We absolutely can do it and am determined to do it by October 31.”
12.34pm update: Hunt urges DUP to “do their bit” to help get Brexit deal through Parliament
The Tory leadership candidate insisted he would “infinitely prefer” to have Tory MPs in Northern Ireland so the Conservatives did not need to rely on the DUP for a majority.
But pressed over the £1 billion cost of the last deal, Mr Hunt did not rule out another similar arrangement.
He said: ”We have that agreement with the DUP, we pay the money and I would like them to do their bit and help us get a Brexit deal through, let me leave it at that.”
12.28pm update: Brexit deal with EU might have to be without backstop, warns Hunt
The Foreign Secretary warned any Brexirtr deal with the EU would mean changing the Northern Ireland backstop.
He said: “I do recognise that we are never going to have a deal to leave the EU with the backstop. So it has to change or it has to go.
Mr Hunt added the problem with the backstop was that it would “trap” the UK into following EU customs tariffs until Brussels gave its permission to leave.
He said: “For a Brexit vote that was about bringing back sovereignty that is not acceptable,” he said.
“I was one of the people who argued against accepting the backstop in the Cabinet, but I think it is important the Prime Minister has a loyal Foreign Secretary so I kept those discussions private.
“But that has to change and we have to find a different solution.”
Tory leadership LIVE: Jeremy Hunt’s plans for Brexit
12.20pm update: Hunt blasts Corbyn in scathing attack on Labour leader
The Tory leadership has described Mr Coryn as “the most dangerous, ruthless, anti-Western, anti-British, hard-left cabal that we have ever seen in British politics.”
Mr Hunt was giving his introductory speech at today’s hustings in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
He said: “I will never ignore the biggest threat facing British politics, which is the Labour party led by the most dangerous, ruthless, anti-Western, anti-British, hard-left cabal that we have ever seen in British politics.”
12.17pm update: Hunt vows to boost defence spending – ‘Our voice is going to be strong in the world
Mr Hunt said at the hustings in Belfast: “I passionately believe Britain is one of the few countries that stands up for democratic values and the security needed to underpin them.
“I will increase our defence spending to beyond two percent of GDP to send that signal to the world to at the point of Brexit, Britain is here, Britain is back and our voice is going to be strong in the world.”
12.03pm update: Hunt talks up credentials of being able to renegotiate Brexit deal
Jeremy Hunt is first up at the hustings in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
He says: “I have four priorities I want to change, but I can’t do any of them until we sort Brexit.
“I have announced a £6 billion support package for businesses, particularly farmers and the fishing community, to help us weather no deal if that is what we end up with.
“That is not my first choice, and it isn’t the real choice in this election.
“Both candidates have said we have to leave the EU. and both have said we have to leave without a deal if that is the only way to do it.
“The choice we have is who is the pm we send to Brussels that has the best chance of negotiating a deal of avoiding those difficult choices we would face in a no deal situation.”
11.45am update: Hunt jokes “four armed police” between him and Johnson on plane to Belfast
The Tory leadership candidate has tweeted to say he is travelling to the hustings in Belfast on a plane shared with rival Boris Johnson.
Sharing a picture of himself on the plane, Mr Hunt tweeted: “On the way to Belfast. Boris out of sight in the back of the plane.
“4 armed police officers between us just in case…”
11.20am update: Tory leadership favourite Boris Johnson to slash Cabinet in HALF saving Commons up to £8bn
Boris Johnson is considering shrinking the size of the Cabinet after key allies persuaded him to cut down Government if he becomes Prime Minister.
The former Foreign Secretary would save billions of pounds by reviewing more than seven departments in Government, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Mr Johnson has previously said he would like to merge the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab estimated £1billion could be saved in the merge.
Mr Johnson’s team is looking to abolish or merge the departments for Justice, Business, Culture, International Trade, Work and Pensions, Transport, and Brexit.
Mr Raab, Andrea Leadsom, Chris Heaton-Harris, Liz Truss and Priti Patel, who back Mr Johnson’s campaign, are all in favour of the departments being cut, the paper revealed.
Advocates believe £8billion worth of savings could be made.
Jeremy Hunt joked there were “four armed police offices between him and Boris Johnson
10.32am update: ‘Absolute joke!’ Hunt blasts BBC for live head-to-head debate proposal for July 16
Jeremy Hunt has hit out at the BBC for offering to stage a head-to-head TV debate with Boris Johnson on July 16 – because most Tory party members will have already cast their vote.
The Foreign Secretary said he had been invited to take part in the debate in two weeks, by which time he said around 90 percent of the party membership would have cast their voted.
He tweeted: “Absolute joke to give the appearance of a debate whilst knowing it can have ZERO influence on campaign. Also v disrespectful to members & the public.
“Other broadcasters had the courage to empty chair no shows. What happened to scrutiny without fear or favour at the BBC?”
Mr Hunt also accused the BBC of “caving in” to pressure from Mr Johnson’s spin doctor, Sir Lynton Crosby.
“Many Beeb journalists will be deeply uncomfortable at this caving to Lynton Crosby. Come on BBC – this is for OUR PRIME MINISTER!”
The BBC said in response that it was keen to host a Question Time special debate with the two candidates and had been trying to agree a date.
“Both candidates have already taken part in the first BBC debate, both have been interviewed by our political editor, and both have agreed in principle to participate in a Question Time special,” a spokesman said.
“We don’t think it’s reasonable to empty chair people who have already participated in interviews and debates and have agreed to take part again.
“Clearly any date needs to fit in with the candidates’ existing commitments such as hustings and other TV appearances. July 16 is before the last Conservative hustings and the voting will still be open.
“But, crucially, our debate is about the next prime minister and we think it’s important both candidates speak to the whole of the UK, as well as the members of the Conservative Party.”
The spokesman said they had also invited both candidates to be interviewed consecutively by Andrew Neil for a BBC One special.
10am update: Pound falls to two-week low against US dollar
Sterling has slipped to a two-week low against the US dollar, weighed down by the uncertainty over Boris Johnson’s or Jeremy Hunt’s priorities for running the country.
The pound was down 0.16 percent at $ 1.2619 in early morning trading. The currency has now lost 0.6 percent of its value against the dollar over the past week.
Against the euro, the pound fell by 0.2 percent to 89.47 pence.
Both Tory leadership hopefuls have promised to increase spending spending and cut taxes.
But Chancellor Philip Hammond said a no-deal Brexit would swallow up the 27-billion-pound ($ 34 billion) fiscal war-chest that he had built up.
9.46am update: Johnson and Hunt receive major boost as DUP praises hard Brexit stance
The DUP has welcomed the hard Brexit stance of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, urging them to “stand up to Dublin” over its support for the backstop arrangements for the Irish border.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said: “What we’ve heard so far, we’re very pleased about. They have said that the current agreement is not going to work.
They have both said that they are committed to the union and thirdly, they’re both saying that we will leave on 31 October.”
Mr Wilson also urged Mr Johnson or Mr Hunt to fight back against Irish warnings about the imposition of the hard border with Northern Ireland.
He added: “We know the Irish. If you vacillate they’ll push you around. If you stand up to them, they will start to take you seriously.”
9.16am update: Johnson pledges to increase stop and search powers in bid to tackle rising knife crime
The leadership frontrunner was answering questions from Tory members over the phone, and admitted additional funding was needed to support police to beat the “nightmare” issue.
Mr Johnson said: “But it’s also about giving police the political cover and support they need to do stop and search and to come down hard on those carrying knives.”
The former Foreign Secretary added he “would like to see more officers out on the street” but gave no further details on when or how this could be achieved.
9.06am update: Brexit renegotiation given blessing by Merkel says Hunt – Germany eager ‘to solve problem’
The European Union is willing to reopen Theresa May’s controversial withdrawal agreement, Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has sensationally claimed.
The Foreign Secretary has said German Chancellor Angela Merkel is willing to reopen Brexit negotiations on behalf of the EU in an attempt to generate a revised deal for a post-Brexit Britain.
Mr Hunt told Sky News during an extensive one hour interview: “When you talk to those people – they also say that if a new prime minister comes forward with new proposals that are sensible of course they will look at the package.”
He added: “I have had a conversation with Angela Merkel.
“She said, of course, we will look at any proposals made by the new UK prime minister, because she wants to solve this problem.”
8.54am update: ‘The EU will NOT use Brexit to turn the screws on our country!” Hunt comes out scrapping
Jeremy fired a warning shot to Brussels yesterday as he vowed to walk away from Brexit talks if the EU does not give ground by the end of September.
Mr Hunt said he would then immediately order the Government to go full throttle for a no-deal exit on October 31.
Going toe-to-toe with rival Boris Johnson, the Tory leadership contender said Britain “won’t blink” and would face down any attempts from the European Union to “turn the screws on our country”.
Setting out a robust 10-point exit plan, the Foreign Secretary said preparations for leaving without a deal would be ramped up from day one if he beat frontrunner Mr Johnson into Downing Street on July 24.
Mr Hunt also said he would, if necessary, cancel August leave for Whitehall officials involved in Brexit preparations.
Jeremy Hunt said Angela Merkel is willing to reopen Brexit talks on behalf of the EU
8.15am update: Hague to back Hunt in leadership race
Former Tory leader William Hague will back Jeremy Hunt in the leadership race.
Mr Hague, who served as leader of the opposition between 1997 and 2001, said both candidates had “great merits”, but added he believes Mr Hunt would make a better Prime Minister.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “Both candidates are committed to a policy that will be formidably hard to implement.
“But one of them has left himself the space in which to do it, even if only a little – an important consideration in a parliament the Tories do not control.
“Whoever wins will benefit from much improved national finances, although I would advise more caution over raiding them in the campaign.”
8.10am update: Leadership rivals to face latest round of hustings in Northern Ireland
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt will this morning face further questions about their Brexit plans at a hustings in Belfast.
They will continue their quest to win over Conservative Party members, and will likely be grilled on their proposals to resolve the Irish border issue and remove the backstop.
Mr Hunt believes there is “technology there now” to solve the problem, while Mr Johnson has suggested the backstop issue could be resolved during the implementation period.
Tory leadership: Jeremy Hunt came out fighting with his Brexit plan
8am update: Johnson and Hunt blasted for “freeports” plans
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have been accused of trying to turn the UK into a haven for tax evaders and money launderers after both backed the creation of “freeports” on the east coast of the UK.
Under the plans being considered by Tory leadership frontrunner Mr Johnson, Teeside, Aberdeen and Peterhead could become economic zones and considered independent for customs purposes, charging no taxes or tariffs on imports.
Freeports are traditionally used to store high-value items such as expensive paintings or jewels, but were heavily criticised by a European Parliament report last year for facilitating “illegal activity”, such as tax evasion and money laundering.
The Guardian has reported Mr Johnson is understood to be backing plans for a freeport on Teeside, while sources close to his leadership team told Scotland’s Press & Journal newspaper providing either Aberdeen or Peterhead with the same status has the potential to create more than 17,000 jobs.
Mr Hunt also said he would be happy to consider his rival’s plans if he became Prime Minister.
But Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Ed Davey said: “Looking to freeports for economic salvation once they’ve pushed us off the cliff shows the desperation of Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Tory Brexiteers.
“The British economy is fundamentally sound as part of the EU, but their vision means the UK would become one of the world’s most opaque, unregulated, and easily manipulated economies.
“We should be leading the world in business transparency, not promoting structures that have the potential to facilitate money laundering.”
Tax Justice Network chief executive Alex Cobham warned: “Freeports have repeatedly been shown to facilitate large scale criminality, including tax abuse.
“The establishment of a freeport should not be countenanced without, at a minimum, requiring far-reaching public registers of those using them and the assets involved.”